Increasing and widespread COVID-19 infections across New Zealand will inevitably impact dental services. The Council recognises that some practices may be facing staffing pressure due to COVID-19 vaccination mandate requirements or infection affecting their staff directly or through their close contacts.
The Council’s supplementary standard on Risk management principles for oral health during the COVID-19 pandemic allows practitioners to:
- interpret the Council’s supplementary standard in conjunction with Ministry of Health and COVID-19 government guidance
- continually develop their understanding of COVID-19, and exercise their professional judgement in applying new knowledge and strategies for reducing COVID-19 transmission risk
- assess the risk to their own safety and that of their staff, and implement appropriate evidence-based infection control measures commensurate with the level of that risk
- use the patient risk assessment, which includes a general risk-based question that may be very relevant now: Do you have any other reason to think that you are at risk of having COVID-19?
- apply discretion to raise or lower patient risk depending on the results of patient screening, level of community transmission or other relevant risk factors
- choose to use precautions that offer a higher level of protection - based on your assessment of risk. Such additional precautions may include using increased respiratory protection (P2/N95 respirators), apply stand-down times between patients, more frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces, limit time of patients in common areas etc.
- continue to defer care for confirmed COVID-19 patients where possible until the patient is well.
The Council sets minimum standards, allowing practitioners to apply their clinical judgement, make their own risk assessments, and increase protection measures when required.
The Council updated its COVID-19 supplementary standard by removing the specific requirement for PCR testing, given the increased use of RATs.
The Ministry of Health’s Guidance for critical health services during an Omicron outbreak contains resources that practitioners may find helpful at this time: